SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After taking 2-of-3 games in a season-opening series win against Pac-12 Washington State, Sacramento State (2-1) hosts a four-game home series against Northern Kentucky (1-2). The teams are scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 6:00 p.m. Friday, 2:00 p.m. Saturday, and 1:00 p.m. Sunday at John Smith Field.
- Sacramento State recorded a season-opening series win over a Power 5 team for the third straight season, taking 2-of-3 games vs. Washington State after winning 2-of-3 games at Auburn last year and 2-of-3 against Utah at home in 2015. The team also split four-games vs. Utah to open 2014.
- All three Hornets starting pitchers allowed just one earned run during the season-opening series. Senior Justin Dillon and freshman Austin Roberts and Parker Brahms combined for a 1.59 ERA and .123 opposing batting average with 13 strikeouts and just seven hits allowed over 17.0 innings.
- Hitting in the leadoff spot, redshirt sophomore infielder Devin Lehman reached base in 8-of-12 plate appearances during the Washington State series. He hit 3-for-7 (.429) and drew five walks for a .667 on-base percentage. Lehman returns after missing the 2016 season after offseason surgery.
- The series with Northern Kentucky will not only be the first meeting between the two teams but also Sacramento State's first games in program history against any school from the state of Kentucky. The series is the first of three straight in which the Hornets will face an opponent for the first time.
- Northern Kentucky opened its season losing 2-of-3 games at Campbell, winning on Saturday by a 5-3 score. The Norse pitching staff struggled in the series, giving up 23 runs with a 7.20 ERA and a .320 opposing batting average. NKU was 20-34 overall and 9-21 in the Horizon League last year.
All Sacramento State home games stream live for free on HornetSports.com/Radio with Anthony Rifenburg and Noah Alvarez providing the play-by-play call. Links for the audio broadcast and live stats are available above and on the baseball schedule page on hornetsports.com. Follow @SacStBaseball on twitter for in-game updates and see more on the official team pages on facebook and instagram.
Scouting Northern Kentucky (1-2)
Northern Kentucky opened its season losing 2-of-3 games at Campbell, winning the middle game by a 5-3 score. The Norse pitching staff struggled in the series, giving up 23 runs with a 7.20 ERA and a .320 opposing batting average. NKU hit just .228 in the series and its batters stuck out 29 times in three games. Northern Kentucky finished 20-34 overall and 9-21 in the Horizon League last year and were picked fifth of seven teams in the conference in the preseason coaches poll. The school reclassified as Div. I in the 2013 season and has a 60-154 record since. Junior Trey Ganns, a two-way player, was an all-conference second team selection last year hitting .286 and posting a 4.21 ERA but got hit hard in his first start of 2017, allowing nine earned runs in just 2.1 innings. He also hit just 1-for-10 in the series while Will Haueter led team hitting 4-for-13 with 3 RBIs against Campbell.
Week One Won
Sacramento State won its first two games of the season and recorded a season-opening series win over a Power 5 team for the third straight season, taking 2-of-3 games vs. Washington State over the weekend. The Hornets won 2-of-3 games at Auburn last year after opening 2015 taking 3-of-4 games at home vs. Utah. Sacramento State outscored Washington State 19-10 in the series with a 3.33 ERA.
All three Hornets starting pitchers allowed just one earned run during the season-opening series. Senior Justin Dillon allowed just one run on one hit over seven innings before freshmen Austin Roberts and Parker Brahms both allowed just one run as well in their first collegiate starters. Roberts struck out six and allowed just two hits in four innings of work and Brahms went six innings and allowed just four hits and one walk with three strikeouts. The three Hornet starters combined for a 1.59 ERA and .123 opposing batting average with 13 strikeouts and just seven hits allowed over 17.0 innings.
On Base Machine
Hitting in the leadoff spot, redshirt sophomore infielder Devin Lehman reached base in 8-of-12 plate appearances during the Washington State series. He hit 3-for-7 (.429) and drew five walks for a .667 on-base percentage. Lehman walked five times in the season-opening doubleheader and was 2-for-4 with a double and 2 RBIs on Sunday. Lehman hit .282 as a freshman in 2015 before redshirting in 2016 following offseason surgery.
The series with Northern Kentucky will not only be the first meeting between the two teams but also Sacramento State's first games in program history against any school from the state of Kentucky. NKU is the first of three straight first-time opponents for the Hornets, later facing Washington and Penn State for the first time.
Back on the Hill
After being limited to just three appearances last year due to injury, fifth-year senior starting pitcher Justin Dillon returns for his final season and was sensational in the season opener, allowing just one hit with four strikeouts over seven innings. The only hit he allowed was a home run as he never faced a batter with a runner on base. In limited action last season Dillon allowed just three hits in 5.2 innings for a .150 opposing batting average after picking up ten wins over his freshman and sophomore seasons. A 39th round MLB Draft selection out of high school, Dillon missed the 2013 season due to injury as well but has been among the team's top starters throughout his career when healthy.
Through the first week of the season the Hornet pitching staff leads the WAC with just 2.33 walks allowed per nine innings and is second with a 1.07 WHIP. In 2016 the team was second in the WAC in ERA, WHIP, and opposing batting average and issued the third fewest walks. Sacramento State pitchers hit the fewest batters in the league and allowed just over three walks per nine innings.
21 and Counting
Junior Andrew McWilliam has reached base in 21 consecutive games played. He ended the 2016 season on a 19-game reached base streak and reached in the first two games this year before getting the day off on Sunday. During the 19-game streak last year he hit .316 with a .500 slugging percentage and nine extra-base hits.
Sacramento State hit three triples against Washington State, with two coming from sophomore James Outman. The team totaled seven triples in 58 games last season but Outman took three bags on two deep drives off the walk in right and junior Ian Dawkins had one as well against the Cougars.
Four of the Hornets six nonconference series this year will be against Power 5 schools with three of them (Washington State, Penn State, and Minnesota) played at home. Sacramento State will play a total of 14 games against Power 5 schools and has had tremendous recent success against such opponents. The team took 2-of-3 vs. Auburn and also picked up a win at No. 5 LSU last year. The Hornets also have wins over Texas, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah, and Minnesota over the last four years.
The Hornets have nine seniors and 13 juniors on the 2017 roster. The group represents 22 of the 34 players on the roster and between them have 30 combined years of experience playing as Hornets. Four players (Justin Dillon, Brandon Hunley, Chad Perry, and Austin Ragsdale) remain from the 2014 WAC champion and NCAA regional team.
21 Nights, 31 Dates
In their first full season under the lights at John Smith Field the Hornets had 31 home games scheduled with 21 night games. Rain has already diminished both those numbers, however, as the Washington State series was shortened from four to three games. The first home night game in program history was last May 17 and the Hornets played two more night games during the final weekend of the 2016 regular season.
Senior Max Karnos, who missed the first week of the season due to injury, was one of the best starters in the WAC last season and earned all-WAC second team honors in his first year as a Hornet. Over his last three regular season starts last year (all wins) Karnos allowed just three earned runs for a 1.17 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and a .187 opposing batting average. He finished 7-3 last year with a 3.38 ERA, fifth best in the WAC. Karnos was especially effective in conference as he had the led all starting pitchers in WAC games going 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA.
Happy at Home
The Hornets have had winning home records in four straight seasons and are now 65-29 at home over the last four seasons. The team has 27 more home games scheduled this season and has had at least 16 home wins in five straight years.
The Sacramento State baseball program had one of the best players in program history return as a coach this season. All-American Tim Wheeler, who is the only first round draft pick in program history and played seven seasons of professional baseball with four at Triple-A, joined the coaching staff as an undergraduate assistant for the 2017 season. The Hornets also brought back assistant coach Tommy Nicholson, who returns for his second stint on the coaching staff and his third overall season in Sacramento after coaching the last four seasons at Texas.
Senior Kody Reynolds hit the first Hornet home run of the season on Saturday, launching a ball off the parking garage in left field. Reynolds hit .295 with three homers last season and ended the year hot, hitting .367 (11-for-30) with a home run, four doubles, four RBIs, and three runs over the last two weeks of the regular season.
California is among the strongest states in the nation for Div. I baseball, and over the last five years the Hornets rank among the best teams in the state. Among 24 Division-I baseball teams in California, the Hornets recorded the 7th most wins over the last five years. The team won 168 total games from 2012-16, more than several perennial postseason qualifiers including Pepperdine, Stanford, Long Beach State, Cal, USC, and Fresno State.